Monthly Archives: March 2009

Video Log: Yarnia for Fiber Lovers

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kZlSVd0KAo&feature=player_embedded]

I like the corner for the husbands… :).

I actually went to Yarnia recently and made some very lovely bamboo/wool blend yarn that I’m using right now in raglan sweater for myself. As soon as I take some photos I’ll post it up here. I love the fact that Yarnia has some very beautiful heathered alpacas and wool threads to include in the mix. You could spend hours in there just playing with combinations.  I like matching analagous colors like families of greens with very different fibers like alpaca and silk or hemp and silk. What joy! I’m in fiber heaven when I’m in there.

Because I knit somewhat tightly, I’ve had to adjust my tension (loosening it) so that I’m not tugging to much on the yarn and causing some the strands to bunch up, but I love how the fabrics knit up.

Some people might complain about splittiness with this type of yarn, but I have to say… “Just rub some dirt in it” (i.e. sometimes you just gotta deal). If you want multistranded goodness you’re just going to have to compensate for the split factor. The overall effect of the colors and blending of fibers is well worth it to me. My bamboo/wool blend has a lovely spring to it. The boucle thread I chose for the combo has also added some grip to the fiber that prevents the bunching.

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Filed under Hemp yarn, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Wool, Yarn

More video log: Coraline’s Teeny Tiny Knitting (something to pick up the spirits)

Amazing… needles the size of a human hair! What a Labor of love. Did you hear that the removed the Jonas Brothers from the 3-D theaters to reinstate Coraline!  Yes…. that’s much better.

[Youtube= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muce8MVqTaU%5D

Also, I’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps. It always helps me to listen to the “Pastoral Symphony.”

(Video is over 30 minutes long… but the music is worth it).

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZGb-Kjy0S0]

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The Elephant Story

Oy, it’s been that kind of a week already (and it’s only Tuesday), and I needed a laugh. I thought I’d share it with you.  I love to laugh… it’s the best medicine.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qqE_WmagjY]

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Ultimate Geekiest Knitting: Programming a Scarf Design

I would love a knitting machine like this but I doubt I’d be able to afford it right now:

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZm6hUXgYnU]

I can dream can’t I?

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Raglan Sweater Episode 2: Calculating Stitches & Casting On

I interupt this post to bring you more on swatching….

We interrupt this programming to...

We interrupt this programming to...

So I’m assuming you’ve selected your yarn and swatched it right? You’ve also washed the swatch in woolite or some other delicate laundry soap, and blocked it to see what the fabric (you’ve knitted) looks like and wears like after it’s been washed. Also if you plan to use different stitches like moss stitch and garter stitch with your sweater, you have blocked those pieces too. You know how old people begin some didactic story or lecture with the words ,”Let me tell you a story about…”? I’m not quite old yet but I’ve been leathered by more than a few knitting mistakes or disasters and I’ll tell you a story about a sweater I knit two years ago. This was my first raglan sweater. I used a ‘super-wash’ yarn and happily knit the sweater to the required measurements, but I skipped the blocking process. The sweater had a nice garter stitch hem at the waist and on the cuffs. It looked quite gorgeous and held it’s shape before washing. After washing the garter stitch hem stretched out, and despite my efforts to dry the sweater flat. The yarn stretched and the sweater turned into a tunic. How could I have saved this by swatching and blocking? If i’d swatched properly, I would have discovered that I needed to go down a few needle sizes for the hem and cuffs. I might have also see that my knitted fabric my stretch after washing.

If you want to keep a knitted garment for a long time and have it look fabulous through most of it’s lifetime, you really need to swatch and block. If you don’t care and you’re just knitting to make a sweater, then don’t block.

We now return to our usual program…

So if you’ve figured out how many stitches per inch or per length of four inches you get when knitting this yarn in stockinette stitch. Measure your chest and and take the number of inches from this measurement and multiply it by the number of stitches per inch.

knitnotes1

Using a cable cast on, I cast on 160 stitches on a needles that were two sizes smaller than the needles I would use to knit the body and sleeves. You can use a long tail or regular cast on if you feel more comfortable.  I knit garter stitch in the round for 6 rows. Remember garter stitch in the rounds is knit one round, purl the next and repeat.  I placed a marker at the beginning of the round, and another at exactly 80 stitches. After knitting the hem, I switched to the larger needles. At the beginning of the row I increased one stitch by creating a purl stitch at the first marker. I would create another purl stitch at the next marker.  I purled these two stitches instead of knitting them as I knit the length of the body in order to create a ‘false’ seam. I would also use these purl stitches to mark the beginning of the gussets I would create for the sweater’s armpits, but I’ll cover that in more detail later in the story.

Essentially, most of the sweater is knit as a stockinette tube. This is the most mindless part of knitting the sweater, and in some ways the most fun. I look forward to watching countless movies with subtitles as I knit this part of the sweater. I can put my mind in a sort of knit on auto-pilot.

Garter stitch hem and stockinette body

Garter stitch hem and stockinette body

Now, if you’re interested in learning how to calculate the yarn and dimensions of your own raglan sweater, I suggest you visit this site:  The Incredible, Custom-fit Raglan Sweater.

The Knitting Fool also has a wonderful Raglan Sweater Calculator. Fill out the stats and create your own pattern as a .pdf document. Please note the needle sizes refer to US sizes and you must knit a 4″ x 4″  swatch to estimate your gauge before running this program.

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Filed under Garter stitch, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Stockinette, Sweater, Teaching, Yarn

Swatch Day and Blueberry Socks

I know I said I was going to write about swatching as part of my process in the whole “Raglan Sweater Series” of posts. I lied.

I know a lot of knitters don’t like hearing the “Sermon on the Swatch.”  Maybe it’s just part of the lesson. Knitting a whole sweater that doesn’t look or fit right. I’ll be honest. I have had this happen to me… more than once. As a result, I now swatch.

That’s all I’ll say on this subject for now.

I did have time today to swatch a few yarns I’ve been wanting to try… some yarns for spring: a cotton/hemp blend, Silky wool, and a mystery yarn from Yarnia that I purchased at last years Knit & Crochet Show (Fall). It’s a mystery because I lost the tag.

I’m a little worried that the Coto Canapone (cotton/hemp) is a bit heavy and stiff, but I think it will soften up after washing and blocking.  I’ve heard some really great things about using hemp and I’ve swatched some pure hemp before. It was a bit too harsh for my liking, and I realized that it would take many washings before I could get it to the softness I wanted. Though perhaps I should think of this as a trade off for the fact that hemp takes a lot longer to wear thin than cotton.  Apparently hemp had quite a history as a much used textile until recent times.  Perhaps with the economy being as it is… more people will turn to having durable clothing items rather than disposable ones they replace or trash every year.

I’m quite charmed by the Yarnia yarn.  Unfortunately the photo of the swatch I took doesn’t reflect the different greens\ and purple shades in this gorgeous yarn. Some people have noted that they find the loosely spun plies difficult and splitty to work with, but I’ve always felt that if you take proper care, even splitty yarn can make nice fabric as long as your knitting on the ‘snug’ side.

From top to bottom, Coto Canapone, Silky Wool, & Yarnia 'mystery yarn.'

From top to bottom, Coto Canapone, Silky Wool, & Yarnia 'mystery yarn.'

I was also able to finish my pair of Heritage Paint socks for the shop model for my “Toe up Socks” class coming up.  I have to say, this yarn is pretty fantastic. I think it’s pretty durable and still fairly soft with no itch. Plus it’s pretty inexpensive and the yardage is huge… 437 yards a skein. I found that the solid colors of this yarn are quite a bargain at around $12-13 dollars a skein. That’s a good price for yarn for handknit socks that should last quite some time.

My Blueberry socks in Heritage Paints

My "Blueberry" socks in Heritage Paints

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Filed under Fibers, Hemp yarn, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Lace, Portland, Portland Knitters, Socks, Stockinette, Stuff I made, Teaching, Techniques, Yarn

Musical Interlude: Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

You may or may not remember that movie A Room with a View, based on E.M. Forester’s novel.

There’s a scene in the movie where the young heroine meets her love interest in a barley field dotted with red poppies. Their first  encounter is set to the music “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta,” and their kiss is accompanied by the crescendo in the aria sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. As a side note, this film actually inspired me to take Italian while I was at Chicago.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD1WxgnrY3I]

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tehft3GDw6k]

The scene I refer to is near the end of the first clip above and at the beginning of the second clip.

Now I’m not really the romantic type but the imagery from this scene accompanied by the music and Te Kanawa’s divine voice still causes my heart to rumble. For me this entire scene moved me more than the entire Titanic movie, which I never saw but felt like I had a thousand times from the descriptions and swooning of all the junior high students I used to teach. After listening to them carry on about how beautiful a love story that was, I nearly puked into the classroom aluminum wastebasket.  It seemed like such a melodramatic and ridiculously maudlin story. Not to mention, the classroom I was teaching in was pretty close to the choir room and guess which song I got to hear, over and over and over again… that little Celine Dion number the name of which I dare not repeat. I have to admit I haven’t seen the Twilight movie because I fear that it’s just really “Titanic” with vampires. Now, if it was “Titanic” with zombies, I might check it out.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiUoWCnGZTU]

Maybe I just like Romance more subtle and not so syrupy and weepy. As for Te Kanawa’s rendition of this beautiful piece almost inspires me to think of a sunshine colored lace shawl knit in maybe a blend of silk and merino.

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Raglan Sweater: Episode 1 – Selecting Your Fiber

 

Click here to view the pdf version of the notes table

Click the link below to view an updated version of this table

yardage_raglan_sweater

I eventually will put the pattern up for Eric’s sweater, but I thought I’d share a little about the process it took to knit it. Knitting a raglan sweater in the round is a good advanced beginner knitting project. Before you start you should be able to do the following:

  • Knit stockinette stitch (right side – knit stitch/ wrong side – purl stitch). Though it is arguable that if you are knitting in the round to make the sweater you only need to know the knit stitch. Still you should probably know how to purl since you need to purl to be able to create a ribbed hem for your sweater.
  • Knit with circular needles in the round
  • Do simple increases or decreases (k2tog – knit 2 together & ssk – slip stitch and passover slipped stitch on the next knit stitch)
  • Sew in ends with a tapestry needle
Panel of stockinette stitch with a garter stitch edging on the bottom

Panel of stockinette stitch with a garter stitch edging on the bottom

If you’ve knit a number of scarves in stockinette or garter stitch or if you’ve knit anything like a hat where you needed to decrease or increase, you’re definitely ready to knit a raglan sweater in the round.

Now you just have to pick and get your yarn.

In a previous post, I mentioned that it is possible for you to purchase yarn for a sweater and not break the bank. I thought I might help a few folks out by providing a few of my notes on yarns that I find to be affordable.  I put together a brief table with my notes on some of of the yarns I’ve used in the past to create sweaters and other garments. I actually put this table together for my own reference.

Please, please note, that these are just estimates and notes put together to give you an idea of what yarns you could use to create a sweater. You should take the recommendations here with a grain of salt and understand that they’re there to give you a point of reference rather than a prescription for knitting a sweater. I also created this to give myself a cost estimate for any raglan sweater projects I might do in the near future. Let’s hope the cost of fiber doesn’t go up too much.  The prices on the table are based on the range of pricing I’ve seen in different stores or on the web.

As you can see from the table below depending on your size and fiber you’re using, you can make a sweater for as low as $30- $40 dollars. I believe that this is what you’d normally pay for a good sweater in a retail shop. Note to self – I need to loose a few more pounds so I can save money on yarn 🙂 Again, if you are looking to save even more money, you can search eBay or Ravelry for swap and trade bargains. You can even re-purpose yarn from thrift store sweaters.

Note that the yarns here in the table are arranged roughly from bulky weight to worsted. Bulky weight yarns allow you to knit a sweater in a short amount of time, but some people don’t like the ‘chunky’ appearance of the knitted garment. Eric’s sweater, featured in a previous post, was done in a heavy/bulky weight yarn that had a gauge of about 4 stitches in an inch. The bulky weight of this yarn and the simplicity of the pattern allowed me to complete the project in less than two weeks.  I believe that worsted and aran weight yarns could be used for a beginner project.

One of the considerations you may want to make when choosing your yarn. How much “ease” or looseness of fit do you want in your sweater? Do you want a baggy and slouchy look or do you want your sweater to fit snuggly? If you have a bustline of 36 inches and you want a comfortably loose sweater you might want to add 3-4 inches of ease to your sweaters bust measurement.

Finally, one general rule for purchasing yarn you should always follow: order an extra amount or skein of yarn if your pattern or size estimate is close to the yardage available in the suggested numbers of skeins. There is no way to predict (other than buying a sample skein and knitting a gauge swatch before you begin your project) whether you will be able to knit the project with the exact yardage specified. It is always better to err on the side of having a little more yarn than you need. Besides you can use the scraps to make a scarf, neck-warmer, or even a hat.

…. Next episode…You must Swatch!

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My Frog Amigurumi Pattern is Up!

frog2

Sentimental Frog

After avoiding having to use GoDaddy to get my site hosted, I’ve finally created a place for my patterns. OMG GoDaddy has got to be one of the sleaziest sites out there with all the additional crud they sneak into your cart. ” No thanks!” I said. Their site makes me feel like I’m being bamboozled into paying for a bunch of extra junk I don’t need.

Instead I opted for using Dreamhost.

Right now the Amigurumi pattern is available for free via this link and at Ravelry (Pattern name: Sentimental Froggie).

Or you can get it here: http://threadmouse.com/patterns/free/AmigurumiFrog.pdf

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I want to be the “Sweater Evangelist”

My Two Week Raglan Sweater

This was an uncommonly cold and snowy winter out here in the Pacific Northwest this year.  I actually was able to knit at least five sweaters from the beginning of fall last year to this date. I finished another raglan in a bulky yarn for my husband this year. I joke with friends that it’s too bad I didn’t knit it earlier because it might have helped save on our heating bills this year. It occurred to me that knitting sweaters is a way to keep people warm and happy. It’s a way to keep them safe, help them feel loved and perhaps save a little money on fuel bills.  Not to mention the fact that a well-made sweater can bring someone joy for years to come.

Yet I hear so many people say things like:

  • “I could never knit a sweater… it’s too hard.”
  • “I don’t have the time to knit a sweater.”
  • “I’ll never be able to knit”
  • “I’ll never be able to knit that well”
  • “It’s too expensive to knit a sweater”

I say: HORSERADISHES!

A basic raglan that’s knit from the bottom up is actually  not too hard to do.  Many of my raglan sweaters are based on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s raglan instructions in Knitting without Tears. You only need to know how to knit two stitches (knit & purl). In addition, you need to knit on circular needles and in the round. I think the hardest thing about knitting this sweater is joining the armpit stitches with Kitchener stitch. But hey… even if it’s not perfect, the stitching is in the armpit. How many people would you actually allow to lift up your arms and inspect your armpits?

As for price, there are many levels of affordable fiber out there.  You can support your local yarn store and purchase a sweater’s worth of yarn in good but affordable wools like Cascade 220, Universal Deluxe Tweed, Ella Rae Classic for less than $50 for a medium sized sweater (womens). You can also keep a look out for sales at your local LYS’s and wait for good prices on the yarn you’d like. If you’re really strapped for cash. You can actually find good worsted weight yarns for a good prices from sites like Elann or LittleKnits. Yarn for bargains can also be found at Good Will stores and other thrift stores. Some people even unravel sweaters from thrift shops and re-purpose this fiber in their own designs.  I believe that knitting can be accessible for all people. I will confess that as I got better at the craft (mind you I’m still learning), I really began to see the benefits of investing in good yarn as opposed to buying quantities of inexpensive wool and other fibers.  I still buy some bargain yarns, but often I use them to experiment with techniques, construction or designs that I want to try later in more costly fibers. But I don’t want to sound holier than though about they type of yarn you’re using if you’re a beginner or if you cannot afford a sweater’s worth of Kid Silk Haze.

I made a sort of informal new years resolution this year that I would teach at least six people how to successfully knit themselves a sweater. I’m quite serious about this resolution because I feel it’s incredibly empowering to make a useful thing like a sweater for yourself or for someone you love.  More, I feel that in these somewhat troubling times of economic uncertainty understanding how to be self-sufficient in many ways including creating ‘useful’ objects like garments and clothing will not just be a pleasurable hobby for some but a necessity of living for many.

I’m actually working on putting together and editing a simple pattern/recipe for knitting the sweater pictured on the left.

PS. I’ve actually finished my Amigurumi Frog pattern, I’m just in the process for finding a place to host my pdf files.

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